It took a daring leap for the San Francisco 49ers to avoid losing back-to-back games, literally.
And Brandon Aiyuk took his leap of faith in the state of Ohio’s third largest city on Sunday, December 12 — ensuring the ‘Niners would stay alive in the NFC playoff race.
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First having misfired on a 47-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, plus being down by three, Aiyuk sprinted behind the line of scrimmage and caught the dump off from Jimmy Garoppolo. Twelve yards separated Aiyuk and the 49ers from retaking the lead and claiming the win in this crucial battle of wildcard hopefuls in their conference.
But Aiyuk took to the Cincinnati sky near the 4-yard line, when this conclusion occurred:
Walk-off touchdown, San Francisco claiming the 26-23 in exhilarating fashion, plus staying in the race for the wildcard round.
ESPN’s NFL account took this snapshot of the floating walk-off touchdown:
The score was verified off instant replay cameras, sealing the “gritty” win as David Lombardi of The Athletic labeled it.
And Twitter became abuzz for Aiyuk and the 49ers after the game.
‘Goat’ Among Online Reactions
One spectator who watched the climatic floater unfold? Tracy Sandler, 49ers reporter for Fan Girl Sports. Sandler called the second-year wideout from Arizona State “goat” twice in her reaction tweet.
Sandler wasn’t the only one amazed by the floating theatrics.
Cameron Salerno, who helps cover the 49ers for the Sacramento Bee, reminded people that Aiyuk is from Sierra College in the 916 region.
ESPN 49ers reporter Nick Wagoner not only praised the effort of Aiyuk on the leaping six-point attempt, but posted how Aiyuk “has been integral” in the 49ers’ turnaround from their 2-4 start.
Staying with ESPN, Stephania Bell tweeted how Aiyuk has had quite the journey from nearly getting lost in the 49ers’ offensive shuffle.
Nate Tice of The Athletic was amazed by the body control and focus once Aiyuk left his feet in the air.
While there were ecstatic and overjoyed 49er fans across social media and at Paul Brown Stadium, Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports on 49ers caught 37 seconds of disappointment and dejection from those wearing Bengals gear:
Play Wasn’t Supposed to be a Touchdown
Believe it or not, Aiyuk wasn’t supposed to score on that overtime play.
At least, according to him.
“We’re not really supposed to reach the ball for the pylon unless it’s fourth down, but no one said anything to me after I scored,” Aiyuk told reporters after the game via Lombardi of The Athletic.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan broke down what was supposed to happen that play. Long story short, the intent was to get the 49ers near the goal line.
“I think they were playing man coverage and it was just a situation where we got back down there and it was first down so they can honor the run,” Shanahan explained to reporters. “We ran the bootleg and brought Aiyuk across…and didn’t expect us to score. Thought it would hopefully get us inside the 3, but the move that he made was unbelievable.”
The leaping move was risky on Aiyuk’s end, especially since it wasn’t fourth down. But Aiyuk lifting himself to the sky lifted the 49ers to victory — plus elevated their playoff hopes.